Poetry and music honoring Black lives filled the entrance hall of the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Nubian Square early Saturday afternoon as dozens gathered to mark one year since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In April, a jury found the officer, Derek Chauvin, guilty of murder and manslaughter. Video showing Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes during a confrontation on May 25, 2020 sparked a global movement that continues to reverberate across the country.
The rally, organized by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience & Racial Equity, brought together artists and city and faith leaders for an event that celebrated progress made in the past year while calling for an end to racial injustice and urging people to continue pushing for social change.
“We know that since George Floyd’s murder over a year ago and since the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the conditions that killed George Floyd and countless others still persist to this day,” Acting Mayor Kim Janey told reporters after the rally. “So it’s a call to action of the work that remains throughout society, not just with police reform, [but also] making sure that we’ve got good, affordable, quality housing, education, and obviously economic justice.”
The rally opened and closed with music performed by a band and choir led by Danny Rivera, 20, of Mattapan. More than 50 people attended, many dancing and singing along, some raising their fists and others waving their hands as the group moved through their set.
“We wanted to respond to this moment on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd by coming together in the heart of blackness in Boston,” said Rivera, a student at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge and a community outreach consultant for the Office of Resilience & Racial Equity. “We want to remember his life and the legacy he leaves and use art as a tool for social change.”
The event was moved inside as rain fell Saturday but that did not undermine the joyous atmosphere created by the performers.
Flowers and colorful illustrations of Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police, including Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, lay scattered on the floor in front of the performers as speakers and poets took their turns at the microphone.
As the rally went on, the artist behind those illustrations, Ameya Okamoto, started and completed a large portrait of Floyd that attendees were able to watch come to life in real time.
Porsha Olayiwola, the city’s poet laureate, read “Power” by Audre Lorde and recited a poem she wrote with her partner that ended with Olayiwola repeating, “We don’t die, we don’t die.”
Lori Nelson, the city’s chief resiliency officer, said there is still a lot of work to be done and Saturday’s gathering served as a starting point for the years ahead.
“This kicks off where we are in the movement and in the moment,” Nelson said. “It was described through poetry and through song that we have been resilient and have endured. We are also people who seek restoration and healing and who seek social change. Boston historically has played a role in race matters, so why not now? ... I think this signifies collectively for Boston where we want to go.”